How Can You Get Rid of Hiccups?

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Most of us get hiccups (or hiccoughs) from time to time, and for some of us, they can be an ongoing nuisance. Hiccups are a reflex action that happens when the diaphragm suddenly tightens, leaving us little control over the resulting sound that ekes out at the top of the windpipe. Though hiccups are not usually anything to worry about, they can be bothersome and, at times, inconvenient—so it’s little wonder that we want to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

What causes hiccups?

Typically, hiccups only last for a few minutes. Some people have several bouts of hiccups over the course of a couple of days. In rare cases, hiccups can persist for months. For hiccups that last less than 48 hours, the most common triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Too much alcohol
  • Too much food or eating too quickly
  • Spicy foods
  • Excitement or other strong emotions
  • Sudden temperature changes
  • Swallowing air while chewing gum or sucking on candy

Long-term hiccups may be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Nerve damage or irritation, caused by things like tumors, gastroesophageal reflux or laryngitis

What can I do about them?

How to get rid of hiccups is an age-old question with a variety of answers based on whom you ask. Some swear by hiccup “cures” or lifestyle factors, such as:

  • Breathing into a paper bag. You should never put a bag over your head.
  • Pulling your knees up to your chest and leaning forward
  • Sipping, or gargling with, ice-cold water
  • Eating a tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • Biting on a lemon or tasting vinegar
  • Holding your breath for a short time

What about baby hiccups?

Hiccups can affect people of any age, including babies. You may have noticed your baby hiccups often, even as early as in the womb. The good news is, babies do not seem to be bothered by hiccups, and they usually stop within 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes feeding your baby will help stop the hiccups, or you can try slowing down the feeding to allow your baby more time to relax.

If your baby’s hiccups don’t stop after a couple of hours, contact your pediatrician.

When should I see a doctor?

For most people, hiccups are generally not a cause of concern. But if you find that your hiccups typically last longer than 48 hours, or if they come back often and are negatively affecting your life, talk to your doctor. He or she may prescribe medications used to treat long-term hiccups, including:

  • Chlorpromazine
  • Metoclopramide

If you have an underlying medical condition that’s causing your hiccups, your doctor may prescribe treatment for the condition. Other options include surgical and other procedures, such as an anesthetic injection to block your phrenic nerve, or an implant that delivers mild electrical stimulation to your vagus nerve. These may be effective in helping control persistent hiccups.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 May 11
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